Summer Split Two — #3: Conflict

Summer_Split02_2

This week on Summer Split; fanservice, doll battles, and heroism!

Stella Jogakuin-ka C3-bu Episodes 5-6

illegenes:  C3-bu had two fanservice-y episodes in a row. Before we all start taking out our binoculars however, I want to bring up the fact that once again, C3-bu has managed to swerve away from the stereotypical directions we’ve seen so many times in anime, and brings in these surprising tidbits in such a way that the time flies by pretty quickly when I watch the show.

For starters, there weren’t that many breast/butt shots which was really nice to see – my biggest fears for this show is that it will eventually take that route, go for that route instead and thus become a show with a lot of wasted potential. Luckily, C3-bu is still delightful even if it does take the chance to make some kind of sexual jokes here and there every once in a while. The next episode has this in the form of shooting water rifles at one another so that the girls’ bikinis can be seen, and while it wasn’t the most original idea or form, it could have been a lot worse.

I think what I’m liking however, is this new twist on the development of Yura as she becomes a better airsoft player. Usually in these sorts of stories, we find that the main protagonist must slowly develop his or her confidence through team interactions and finding out how he or she connects to the game. In C3-bu however, Yura has already succeeded this position. She has not only found her way of playing airsoft; she’s improved drastically to the point where her teammates can rely on her and she can secure wins. Yura’s physical progress has come first instead of her emotional progress – something which is sorely lacking, as Sona notes in these two episodes. The audience and Yura’s teammates might be fooled into thinking that just because Yura has ‘conquered’ her fear for not being accepted by the people around her she has become a more confident human being, but it seems like the opposite has happened. Yura’s desperation to be accepted has taken the form of ruthless determination as she pushes herself to become a powerful airsoft player. At first, this may sound a bit dramatic, but there are hints: Sona seeing that Yura has no awareness of her surroundings as she is too focused on her mission, and most importantly, Yura taking advantage of Sona’s humanity by drawing the trigger while Sona was temporarily distracted by a child’s mistake. The parallels between her and Sona’s ex-partner are almost frighteningly similar, and in a way, I can see why Sona is concerned about Yura’s wellbeing; Yura may be having fun just as Sona suggested, but she’s also becoming increasingly ruthless, and something tells me that next week is where this confrontation happens as Yura must come to realize that in a sense, she hasn’t changed at all. She’s just as afraid of being left alone and isolated as she was 5 episodes ago. Hopefully these two can come around and be able to openly communicate to resolve this issue just before the next battles begin!

gallifreyians: A beach episode, C3-bu had a beach episode — and this strikes me as odd considering how all of the characters look like twelve-year-olds, but it’s anime I guess. I’m not the biggest of fans of C3-bu, and I couldn’t tell you why. The thing that gets everyone going are the skirmishes, but to be completely honest nothing about them really speaks to me on any substantial level. So as you could probably guess, the beach episode (which was entirely devoted to two skirmishes) was pretty boring for me to watch.

One thing about the beach episode that did pique my interest however, was Sono’s observation that Yura isn’t looking at the things around her, which is obvious foreshadowing that Yura’s single-minded determination to win the game is going to come back to bite her in the ass. This foreshadowing is continued in the next episode, the school fair episode, where Yura wins a quick-draw between herself and Sono because Sona looked away for a moment because a child had bumped into Ren and fallen over.

As for the fair episode though, the continued foreshadowing is really just the smallest thing. What really shines about that episode is Yura’s flashbacks to her previous experiences with fairs in middle school. What’s more is that the recurring feels of isolation made this episode really hard for me to watch, despite how light-hearted it was. As I’ve said before, I see a lot of myself in Yura, and this episode was the painful reminded that my school experiences were just like Yura’s: lonely. To have moments like this reminds us that Yura isn’t a completely different person than who she was, and that one doesn’t simply magically gain confidence — changing oneself and becoming the confident, outgoing person that you know you are is a journey.

Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen Episodes 5-6

illegenes: I can’t express how great Rozen Maiden has become. It has a distinct feel to it when it slowly walks the line between slice of life elements and fantasy elements with ease, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the world of Jun and his boring life while watching these dolls interact. The result is a satisfying and smooth journey tingling with mystery but also character development. Episode 5 was excellent in that it spent half of the time on Sugintou’s relationship with her master, Meg, a sick girl who seeks a death wish of her own. Sugintou is the type of doll who enjoys watching humans suffer, putting on a facade of selfishness, but when you’re paired up with the most fragile and innocent girl who is at the deepest pits of despair both physically and mentally, Sugintou finds out that there’s more to her than meets the eye and that they’re both incredibly alike.  Crunching their relationship in a mere 12 minutes is hard but Rozen Maiden did it spectacularly, and you could really feel Sugintou’s helplessness when Kirakishou snatched Meg away from her.

Rozen Maiden has also done a fantastic job of using negative space and color to establish mood and atmosphere.

Meg has her own instabilities and fears – something Sugintou just can’t ignore.

This continues in Episode 6 but with two sides to the equation: on one side is Shinku and Sugintou, who manage (after many fights of flower petals and black feathers) to come to an altruistic truce in order to return to their Masters. I really enjoy how these two interact; there’s obviously this large pettiness behind their battles and the two can’t come to appreciate the other’s way of handling things and perspective whatsoever, but even then, there’s a shared respect. They acknowledge each other as worthy opponents and are more alike than they wish to admit (sharing a deep bond with their Masters, wanting to shoulder the burden, wallowing in regret while putting up the air that everything is alright, etc).

Hana ga saita yo….

The other side of course, is Jun, as he leaves his apartment for the first time in who knows how long to meet up with his friend Saito, who requests his help on the costumes for the set. He is unwillingly dragged to actually help out on the set itself with Saito’s unsociable brother. It’s only after this and some discussions with the dolls that Jun realizes how much his life has changed with Shinku’s arrival, and craves attention and belonging. Jun no longer seeks to be alone and withdrawn, and in this moment of sad realization, we see our beloved hero give into his weakness as he attempts to make a doll for himself. What he probably doesn’t know is that he’s being manipulated by the seventh doll, Kirakishou, whose body is part of those contents.

With only four days left till Shinku’s body deteriorates, it’ll be interesting to see how things conclude in Rozen Maiden, and I can’t wait for the inevitable climax and battles. The suspense is slowly rising……it’s only a matter of time before things explode.

Gatchaman Crowds Episodes 4-5

gallifreyians: This episode of Gatchaman really pushes forward the plot of the show in an interesting direction that manages to not take away from it’s potential. The biggest flaw in the genre of science fiction is how the works tend to limit themselves in scope in ways that are incredibly reductive to the thematic value of the show. The intrigue that Nakamura’s created around the nature of Galax, the unnamed alien, and the very nature of Gatchaman is very interesting and creates many interesting possible future plot points.

Episode four really makes us ask what is going on in this show. The question has been begged as to how the alien woman is related to the Gatchaman and why she has the same ability to create notes as JJ does. By extention however, this also gets to the very core of the nature of the Gatchaman themselves; why are they here and what is their true purpose? Based on the similarities between JJ and the unnamed alien (as well as the onimous burning paper bird at the end of the episode that foreshadows Jou’s death) could JJ be working with the unnamed alien and in on the destruction of humanity? And how exactly is the unnamed alien going to use Galax and Rui to destroy the world? As for the Crowds, I am assuming that they are Rui’s special power, but how are they going to eventually make things worse? Finally, how the hell does OD know the alien and why is it that his power will spell the end of the world despite him being a Gatchaman?

The more compelling part of the episode though is Jou’s arc and the exploration of his character. Despite his disposition as “the cool one” — stoic, quiet, unaffected by everything — he is a person who genuinely wants to help people. Throughout the episode he expresses a strong feeling of being outdated, and I think that this can be attributed to his feeling of helplessness in helping people due to the advent of Galax. Jou is a civil servant, and in my experience that is a thankless job that is only taken by those who want to help people. I also think that it is Jou’s desire to help people that is a part of the reason that he became a Gatchaman. Jou wants to be a hero, we see this both in his professional life as a civil servant and in his personal life as a Gatchaman.

How must Jou feel then when in episode four he literally can do nothing to help anyone? Jou was unable to stop not only the unnamed alien’s assault of random people in the crowd, but he was also unable the even fight off the alien in his Gatchaman form. Combine all of this with the constant presence of Galax and it’s message “It’s not heroes who update the world, it’s us.” and Jou feels outdated. Sure, hero complexes are a dime a dozen in fiction, but I don’t think that any have ever been explored in quite this manner; the focus is not on the actual character with the hero complex, but on the themes that the situation invokes: helplessness, technology, and social change.

I also don’t think that Jou’s hero complex is just a part of his character — in a show like Gatchaman Crowds, I’m sure that it is a tragic character flaw. At the end, when JJ cuts out all of those paper birds and has them fly around only for the red bird to burst into flames and ash, I think that this most definitely points to Jou’s hero complex being something that will be his undoing in the future. After all, Jou is the one character most closely associated with both red and fire.

illegenes: While I still think Gatchaman Crowds has all the right ideas on paper, it still can’t bring them properly to the screen in a way for me to be completely invested. With that in mind, I do love the show’s thoughts regarding heroism and how it’s viewed in the current day and age. Seeing how Rui’s disillusionment of heroism clashes with a girl like Hajime is fascinating and I honestly can’t wait to see how these two interact when they meet.

Steven’s discussed a bit of Episode 4, so I’ll talk about Episode 5, which was to me, the strongest episode yet. Interestingly enough, Gatchaman Crowds has taken a bit of a pause on ‘action’ while it focuses more on the story and unravelling threads as things start to come together. The way here might have been a bit rough around the edges – I still think that Crowds‘ denseness is dragging it down a bit more than pushing it up – but we’ve finally arrived at a point where our cast is interconnected. The climax of Episode 5 as Hajime selflessly throws herself in front of Sugane gave me chills, and I can’t wait for what comes next. But what really sets this episode as great for me is how it focuses on the two biggest flaws of our main characters. I’m of course, talking about Hajime and Rei as this installment looks at their perspective on matters and how limited they are.

Rui does not believe in heroes – his approach is communist-like as he believes that the power to save should be accessible and that people have an inherent desire to be selfless and care for the greater good. In other words, his ideal is in the physical form of Hajime Ichinose, a girl embodies optimism with caution and a sincere need to help people out and look at things in the best light possible.  We already knew this from Episode 4, but there’s a twist here. Rui’s battle with one of his Hundreds (a man who isn’t portrayed as evil, but as a father who is much more aware of the world than a boy like Rui) shows that Rui’s control isn’t as absolute as he thought it was. On the contrary, it’s weak and simple minded. Rui desires a bloodless revolution and is fully aware that heroes do not exist, but his foundation in this theory is naive. He believes that people are always good hearted with good intentions; traits that may show in the most disastrous of occasions (when people are run over or stabbed, there will be help) but is not everlasting.

Of course, Hajime in a sense proves this wrong. But Episode 5 is so very clever because it shows us two things: Hajime is one of a kind and not everyone is like Hajime (thus proving Rui wrong) and that Hajime herself is naive and flawed. So far, the show has set up our main protagonist as a curious and good hearted girl who is a social butterfly and believes in the best of people, but that self righteousness ends with Episode 5 when Hajime recklessly hurts herself to save Sugane, and directly disobeys the order to not turn into a Gatchaman to save the rest of the bystanders. It’s the first time I actually feel like there’s a real threat and that things are at stake in the game, rather than just a typical Good vs Evil story. I’m looking forward as to how things will really explode when Rui realizes that Gatchamans exist and is forced to choose between siding with them or casting them off as fake heroes while he goes down the self destructive route to become a silent martyr.

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